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Texas university eases transition for nursing students

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Students in the College of Nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington. ​

​Nursing students at more than a dozen community colleges in Texas can now transition quickly and seamlessly into the baccalaureate program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington).

Through the new Professional Nursing Pathways Program, nursing students will develop a relationship with UT Arlington while still in community college, from a one-time program application to developing a course pathway to attain a four-year degree. By following a designated course path, students will be able to begin the university’s registered nurse-to-bachelor’s-of-science-in-nursing program (RN-to-BSN) about 60 days after graduating from participating two-year colleges.

According to the university, just 18 percent of nursing graduates with associate degrees pursue more advanced degrees. The Pathways program can change that, said Elizabeth Poster, dean of UT Arlington’s College of Nursing.

“We wanted to take away the barriers that keep these new nurses from completing bachelor’s degrees,” she said. “This program creates an accessible and affordable seamless transition, and it begins while students are still at the community college.”

Joan Becker, director of the nursing program at El Centro College in Dallas, said the new partnership is already having an effect, with more students choosing the courses that will make it easier for them to enter UT Arlington. El Centro’s nursing program has about 700 associate degree students.

Becker said local hospitals are looking to hire more BSN-prepared nurses as they strive to become “magnet” institutions, an accreditation provided by theAmerican Nurses Credentialing Center.

Nixing frustration

One barrier for transferring students has been the paperwork.

“We had a large percentage of our students attend UT Arlington after graduation, but they had to make their own applications and submit all their own transcripts,” Becker said. “It was just a harder process for students and sometimes frustrating. Now, the application to our associate degree program is an application to UT Arlington’s BSN program.”

UT Arlington already runs a popular online RN-to-BSN program that can be completed within 13 months. The university’s nursing program is one of the largest and most successful programs in the country, with more than 3,000 of the college’s 6,600 students currently enrolled in the online RN-to-BSN degree program. In recent years, more than 225 Texas hospitals have partnered with UT Arlington to provide their employees the opportunity to take part in the RN-to-BSN program.

The Pathways initiative is a response to a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that said that 80 percent of nurses in the U.S. should hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020 compared with the 50 percent of nurses working today.

The program also addresses calls from theTexas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in Texas, said Beth Mancini, associate dean of UT Arlington’s nursing program.

The community colleges participating in Pathways include:
El Centro College
Brookhaven College
Grayson County College
Lone Star College System
Mountain View College
Navarro College
Tarrant County College
Trinity Valley Community College
Weatherford College

More partners are expected to join soon.

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